by VOA News
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has led the country for 13 years, was indicted by the country’s top prosecutor on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust on Thursday.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit charged Netanyahu with fraud and breach of trust in three cases, and bribery in one case.
The charges center on allegations that the prime minister and his wife accepted more than $260,000 worth of jewelry, cigars and other gifts in exchange for political favors. The prime minister is also accused of interfering with regulatory bodies and lawmakers on behalf of two media companies in exchange for positive news coverage.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu tweeted an opinion piece by Israeli legal scholars. In the tweet, the Israeli premier noted, “There is no court in a modern-enlightened state that has convicted a public servant for a bribe for receiving positive coverage.”
He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the cases and says he is a victim of a “witch hunt.”
Criminal charges will not force Netanyahu to resign, but the indictment might cripple the 70-year-old prime minister’s chances in the looming elections.
Netanyahu found himself unable to form a coalition government in Israeli’s Knesset last September. His chief rival, ex-military chief Benny Gantz, announced he was also unable to form a government on Wednesday.
Knesset lawmakers have less than a month to organize a coalition and select a lawmaker to lead a majority government alongside President Reuven Rivlin, and it is unlikely they will succeed. If no lawmaker can garner 61 seats in the 120 seat legislature, then the country will need to hold elections for the third time this year.
“This is a very sad day for the State of Israel,” Gantz tweeted in reaction to the indictment.
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